January 23, 2010


On the 4th Friday night of every month, Cayli makes brownies.

Because on the 4th Saturday morning of every month, Cayli and her sisters and a few other church members serve them to the homeless men and women in our capital city.

Cayli has a passion for helping feed those who are hungry. She's the motivation behind our family's involvement with our church's outreach to the local homeless people. She's normally shy and quiet, but in the serving line, her face brightens as she talks to these people who are so thankful to have the grilled hamburgers, chips and homemade brownies.

We have discovered that "homeless" can mean 3 different things:

  • People who just prefer living on the streets. It may be hard and cold during the winter, but they find their friends and acceptance in this street culture.
  • People who really just need a little help. They are willing to work for a living but have recently lost a job or a home. Some of these families are living in a car because car insurance is more affordable than a house payment.
  • People who abuse drugs and/or alcohol and the addiction has cost them everything. Their drug-induced highs are the only "hope" they feel.
We also know that all of these people--no matter why they are homeless--need food, clothing and a glimpse of the all-encompassing love of God.

So every month, Cayli does exactly what God has placed in her heart to do: She makes and serves homemade brownies.

Here's her recipe:

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350*. Grease and flour a 9 by 13 inch pan.
Microwave the butter in a microwave safe bowl for until melted. Stir in the sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the cocoa; beat well until well blended. Add the flour, baking powder and salt; beat well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from the pan sides.

Though it's not a lot, and we wish we could do more, it's what she can offer now. And she eagerly serves, talks to and prays for these people.

And I love seeing how God is shaping her heart. :)

post signature

January 19, 2010

Sign Language

Often I'm asked how I learned sign language. Well, almost 30-some-odd-years ago I first learned the finger alphabet on the school bus. Some kids pick up bad language, I learned to to spell with my fingers.

Through the years, I learned a few signs here and there--mainly at church in the children's choir or at a summer camp.

Eight years ago, with a vocabulary of maybe 5 signs, I introduced myself to a lady at church who was deaf. She was waiting on her niece in the children's area and I felt badly that she had no one to talk to. So I bravely smiled and awkwardly spelled my name...and made a new friend. Her name was Teresa. Over the next two years she patiently helped to expand my signing vocabulary to almost conversational status.

2 years after I met her, she died. I helped interpret her funeral for the rest of her Deaf friends.

Inspired by her life, I determined to learn all that I could so that I could confidently carry a conversation with with other deaf people.

Before her funeral, I also heard these two statistics from Silent Blessings:
  • Only 2-4% of Deaf Americans attend church, making them the largest unreached people group in our country.
  • 90% of Deaf children do not have parents who can communicate effectively with them.

My heart was touched, my course in life was then set and I have made friends with some of the most interesting people I know. They can't hear, but they are full of wisdom, understanding and compassion for others. And they have taught me much.

Currently I know enough sign to interpret at our church:

So how did I learn? Only by sitting with my Deaf friends and watching and learning and signing the wrong signs and letting them laugh at me and patiently show me--yet again!--signs that I kept forgetting.

I've never taken a class, except for the ones that are freely offered at my church. Now I help teach one of them.

These are the books that I constantly refer to when teaching or studying to interpret at church:

I also utilize ASLpro.com often for their online dictionary and videos. I recently taught a group of women how to sign the National Anthem. I studied the ASLpro site and SigningSavvy.com for a refresher of certain words and phrases. Then I asked two of my Deaf friends how they would sign it in order to finalize my signs.

If you are teaching kids, nothing beats the Signing Time videos. Even older kids can learn lots from these videos aimed at preschoolers. I've actually learned a few signs! Signs can vary across the country--almost like our voice dialects--and learning how different regions sign will easily expand your vocabulary.

For kids, start by learning the manual alphabet (if it seems a little daunting, keep patiently practicing and be happy that you're not in England--their manual alphabet uses both hands!) Kids can easily practice spelling words with their fingers--and they can use it as a secret language to communicate with friends. Practicing with others help you not only master fingerspelling, but also the skill of reading someone else's fingerspelling (which honestly is the hardest skill of all for me).

After you and your children are comfortable with fingerspelling, use The Joy of Singing to learn a few vocabulary words. Use the signs to help memorize Bible verses, poems or songs. It's okay if you don't know a sign for every word--just get comfortable with the few signs you do know. I personally think one way to build your memory is to use your hands to sign. There's just something about putting your hands in motion to increase your mental capacity.

If you use some resources that I haven't listed, I'd love to hear about them. But remember, one of the best ways to learn, is to get to know someone who is deaf or hard-of-hearing. Who knows? Maybe the little you learn now is a good preparation for a future friendship. You never know when you'll be able to use what you know.

Even if it's to make your kids an "I Love You" sign:

Enjoy signing,

post signature

January 5, 2010

Kick-off to our new semester

Here's our course of study for the next few weeks:
Cayli has already read the books in this series. So I'm reading for the first time, outloud, to all the girls as we study prairie life, thanks to a Beyond Five in a Row unit.

Today we read chapter one and then talked about the formation of a baby. We read Psalms 139 and then went over a month-by-month growth of a fetus.

This discussion was very, very basic, but led to interesting conversations about what each child was like at birth. So I shared a few memories that I had treasured in my heart and showed them lots of pictures, even their ultrasound photos.

This is my sweet Cayli, who always slept with her hands near her head. By two months she was an avid thumb sucker. :)

Here are Mabry and Kenna, who were caught in a rare sleeping pose. They began life as womb-mates and have always shared a bassinet or a crib. Now they share a room. They are very close.
What a precious time we had flipping through the pictures to revisit their entry into the world!

One thing I'm purposing this year is to spend individual time with each child. Homeschooling allows me to spend lots of time with all of my kids, but I don't have much time one-on-one. So today each girl got their own baby story--told for the 18,000th time, but every time is special to them. :)

post signature

P.S. No, these pictures do not make me long for another baby. :) I'm loving my kids where they are--each stage is a joy. And the three-kids-ages-8-and-9-with-a-toddler-in-tow stage is so much more joyous than the three-kids-under-17-months. ;)

January 3, 2010

10 years

There's been a lot of discussion about the last decade, which is the first decade of the 21st century--you know, the century when the world was suppose to come to a crashing halt. Well, nothing has stopped around here--we're busier than ever!

I've taken some time to reminisce just a bit, especially when I realized that 10 years ago I was just beginning to dip my foot into the swirling sea of parenting as my oldest daughter was born. A year after I tested those waters, I was thrown into the sea, with no swimming no-how or lifejacket of salvation, as my twins were born. By the grace of God, I survived!

And now, 10 years later, we're thriving! Life is good. All those girls of mine now have become exceptional big sisters to their little brother and I've spent the last 10 years learning to be the best mom I can be. And I've also learned how to sew, crochet, quill paper, decorate a cake and take decent pictures. I've also mustered enough know-how to create a meal that my entire finicky family will eat.

10 years ago I was a houseparent at a children's home. Now I parent a house full of my own children.

10 years ago I could only fingerspell my name. Now I know enough ASL to carry on a conversation with my many Deaf friends and my girls are picking it up as a second language.

10 years ago there were no blogs, iPhones, Facebook walls or tweets. Google was still a noun--now we google whatever we need to know. 10 years ago life was just a tad simplier, don't you think?

And during a certain point in the last decade, my husband lost his job due to cutbacks, we had no friends in a new town and had no idea what to do with two children that never slept and cried 24/7. The only place to go was straight to God Himself--and He proved himself faithful. He provided the finances we needed to put food on the table. He blessed us with life-long friends. And He endowed us with great patience and stamina to raise our "tiny-whineys." Not only did He surprise us with a baby boy that allows a-not-so-frazzled-me to finally experience the joys of raising a toddler, He also continues to meet our needs on a daily basis. He has truly filled our cup to overflowing with family and friends.

So I guess if one word describes this past decade, it would be BLESSED. I'm more blessed than I deserve. And I'm blessed to see what the next decade holds.

post signature

P.S. Also during the next ten years I'd like to get a full family picture--with the kids, me and Matthew! :D (The picture above was taken during our vacation to Washington DC this fall because I purposed to have one with my young'ns. Now as I'm organize my bazillion pictures, I realize that not a single shot includes all of us, since one of us is always holding the camera--or holding the 2-year-old away from it.) We really need to work on that...

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

My 2010 resolution is to do more paper quilling and using metallic watercolors on the paper like I did for the fireworks and the year. It's very therapeutic!

Have a great start to a new year!

post signature